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9 Tick Repellents That Really Work

Ticks are most active during warmer months and can carry debilitating diseases, so it's important to protect yourself before you head outdoors.

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R&R Insect Repellent Lotion

This non-greasy, odorless lotion lasts for up to eight hours and has IR3535, an EPA-registered tick repellent that’s endorsed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as its main active ingredient. Not familiar? It’s a biopesticide, different from traditional pesticides like DEET or picaridin, that can safely be reapplied up to three times per day, and there is no need to wash it off as it is considered harmless to your skin. Using tick repellent isn’t all you can do to protect yourself, these 13 secrets ticks won’t tell you will help you avoid getting bitten.

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Gamehide ElimiTick Long Sleeve Tech Shirt

If you don’t want to deal with tick repellent lotions, specially treated clothing is another option. “Scientists that work with ticks often recommend permethrin-treated clothing over other repellents,” says William Walton, PhD., professor and vice-chair in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside. If a tick is found on the fabric, it doesn’t mean it’s not working—the tick’s nervous system slows down and it eventually falls off, reports a Gamehide representative. This shirt comes coated in tick repellent that’s bonded to the fabric fibers and effective for up to 70 washes.

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Insect Shield Sport Crew Sock

These cotton and polyester socks contain permethrin, keeping the ticks at bay and have been proven effective through 70 washes. “Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide that acts like a natural insecticide found in chrysanthemum flowers,” says Walton. Widely used in public health and agricultural applications, it has low toxicity to humans and is even approved for controlling insect pests in food processing areas.

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Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent

This product contains 0.5% permethrin, but be aware that you should avoid applying permethrin directly to your skin, according to Walton. Follow the label’s instructions for applying it to your clothes, fabrics, plastics, or outdoor gear. Once it dries, it is odorless and lasts up to six weeks or six washings. During application, be especially careful to avoid contact with your skin and eyes. This 12-ounce bottle treats up to two complete outfits.

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Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent Lotion

This tick repellent lotion contains 20% DEET, a pesticide approved by the EPA and designed for direct application to the skin. It’s non-greasy, odorless, and sweat-proof—plus, it can be used along with sunscreen. Rather than killing ticks, “DEET works by making it hard for these biting bugs to smell us,” reports the EPA. DEET is the most effective repellent if you will be out for two hours or more, says Walton. Sawyer Premium Insect Repellant Lotion releases DEET slowly and lasts up to 11 hours.

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Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent

Worried about using DEET on your children as a tick repellent? “I use DEET-based products to prevent mosquito and tick bites on myself and my family,” says Rebecca Trout Fryxell, PhD., associate professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee.

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Natrapel 12-Hour Insect Repellent

This tick repellent spray uses 20% picaridin, another EPA-approved ingredient, endorsed by the CDC. “Some people do not like the smell and oily feel of some DEET formulations,” says Walton. “Picaridin offers a comparatively pleasant alternative to DEET.” It’s effective at warding off the ticks that cause Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. If you have any of these Lyme disease symptoms, it’s imperative not to ignore them.

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Haz Tick Repellent Wristband

Tired of chemical-filled sprays and lotions? Try this all-natural and family-friendly tick repellent wristband. They’re even safe for babies and they smell good. Each band contains a blend of essential oils: citronella, geranium, and lemongrass. These bracelets haven’t been proven effective, so if you do rely on one to prevent ticks, you’ll want to shower as soon as you come indoors (within two hours) to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.

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Wondercide Natural Yard Spray

No harsh chemicals in this tick repellent: Wondercide’s spray uses 22.5% cedarwood oil. It’s considered safe for kids and pets with no wait time and can be used on your lawn, plants, and grassy areas. Great for large areas, it can kill ticks up to 5,000 square feet. Plus, this product is safe for beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. But not everyone agrees. “I do not know of any studies that conclusively demonstrate the effectiveness of cedarwood oil for controlling ticks,” says Walton. Here’s how to make your own non-toxic pesticides.

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Dianne Bright
Dianne Bright is a southern California-based writer specializing in parenting, marriage, and family. Bright also enjoys writing on nutrition and health, books, culture, lifestyle, faith, and science. Her work has appeared in Scholastic's Parent & Child magazine and blog, the Press Enterprise, Thriving Family, I Love Cats (NY), Christianity Today, and other publications. Her M.A. is in Spanish American Literature with additional emphasis in Linguistics and Brazilian Literature. Bright has authored two indie titles, and her young adult fantasy duology is on query with publishers.

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